Exmouth space project will be worth the wait

Shannon BeattiePilbara News
The Space Surveillance Telescope site in Exmouth.
Camera IconThe Space Surveillance Telescope site in Exmouth. Credit: Sitzler/Sitzler

Exmouth’s Space Surveillance Telescope has been delayed by up to three months but the hold-up could dramatically extend the life of the project.

The telescope, a joint project between the US and the Department of Defence, was due to be finished this month, but managing contractor Siztler has estimated completion will be at the end of May.

A Defence spokeswoman said the complexity of operating the system in the cyclone-prone Exmouth region was underestimated.

“The final facility has been redesigned to withstand local conditions, meet Australian building standards and provide an enduring operational capability,” she said.

Sitzler project manager Paul Gurr said the delays allowed improvements which would lengthen the telescope’s operating life.

“The telescope isn’t new, it’s actually from a US Air Force facility in New Mexico,” he said.

“So America own the telescope, but Australia has built the facility here in Exmouth and after completion it will be a joint-run project.”

Over the last two years, the project has been a big boost to employment in the town.

“Sitzler are a very proud Australian company,” Mr Gurr said.

“Seventy-seven per cent of the trade packages have been awarded to locals, so we’ve contributed back to the town as much as we can.”

More than 35 Exmouth businesses have been engaged and more than 147 Exmouth residents have worked on-site.

The community will benefit from visits by support personnel to the region and the potential for further employment opportunities in sustaining the capability.

“The project also strengthens Exmouth’s standing as a key space surveillance site in Australia, highlighting the many benefits the region brings to the space community,” a Defence spokeswoman said.

Once finished, the telescope will undergo testing, with first light scheduled for April or May, 2020.

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